Creative Writing 10 Tips for Writing Poetry
10 Tips for Writing Poetry • Know your goal • Avoid Clichés • Avoid Sentimentality • Use Images • Use Metaphors and Similes • Use Concrete Words, instead of Abstract Words • Communicate Theme • Subvert the Ordinary • Rhyme with Caution • Revise, Revise, Revise
1. Know your Goal • If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there? • Ask yourself: • What do you want your poem to “do”? • Describe a life event • Protest an injustice • Describe nature’s beauty • Once you know what you want the poem to “do”, you can align all elements of the poem to serve the main purpose.
2. Avoid Clichés • Stephen Minot definesa cliché as: • "A metaphor or simile that has become so familiar from overuse that the vehicle … no longer contributes any meaning whatever to the tenor. It provides neither the vividness of a fresh metaphor nor the strength of a single unmodified word….The word is also used to describe overused but nonmetaphorical expressions such as 'tried and true' and 'each and every'" (Three Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction and Drama, 405).
2. Avoid Clichés (con’t) • Clichés are overused metaphors, similes, and other non-metaphorical sayings. • Clichés can also be overused literary elements. • Overused Themes • Love, Loss, Flowers, etc. • Overused Character Types • Perfect hero, Young lover, etc. • Overused Plots • Lost love (Break-ups), Walking in Nature, etc.
2. Avoid Clichés (con’t) • How to Improve a Cliché: • Determine what the original cliché is trying to say. • Think of an original way to describe what the cliché is trying to describe. • Create a phrase using the non-cliched way of description. • “How to Improve a Cliché” Game
3. Avoid Sentimentality • Sentimentality is: • Language "dominated by a blunt appeal to the emotions of pity and love” (131). • “When readers have the feeling that emotions like rage or indignation have been pushed artificially for their own sake, they will not take the poem seriously" (132). • Common subjects are: • Puppies • Relatives • Young Lovers
4. Use Images • “Be a Painter in WORDS” • SHOW the reader; don’t just tell them • Poetry should stimulate six senses • Sight • Hearing • Smell • Touch • Taste • Kinesiology (our sense of motion)
5. Use Metaphor and Simile • Brings imagery and concrete images to your writing • Neither similes nor metaphors are more or less poetic than the other. • It is important to remember that comparison, inference, and suggestion are all important tools of poetry; similes and metaphors will aid those areas.
6. Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words • Concrete words: things that people can experience with their senses. • Examples: • Warm • Dog • Brown • Abstract words: refer to concepts or feelings. • Examples: • Liberty • Happy • Love
6. Use Concrete Words Instead of Abstract Words (Con’t) • How to change abstract words into concrete words and images. • One way is to think of an object or a scene that evokes the abstract word. • Example: She felt happy. • Improvement: • Her smile spread like red tint on ripening tomatoes.
7. Communicate Theme • Poetry ALWAYS has a theme. • Theme is not just a topic. • Theme= Idea (Topic) + Opinion • Examples: • Topic: The Vietnam War • Theme: History shows that despite our claims to be peace-loving, unfortunately each person secretly dreams of gaining glory through conflict.
8. Subvert the Ordinary • A Poet’s strength is the ability to see what other people see everyday in a new way. • You don’t have to create original subjects. • Rather a good poet takes an ordinary object, place, person, or idea; and comes up with a new perception of it.
8. Subvert the Ordinary (Con’t) • Example: People ride the bus everyday. • Poet’s Interpretation: A poet looks at the people on the bus and imagines scenes from their lives. • A poet sees a 60 year old woman and imagines a grandmother who runs marathons. • A poet sees a 2 year old boy and imagines him painting with ruby nail polish on the walls of his home, and his mother trying not to respond in anger.
9. Rhyme with Extreme Caution and Purpose • Rhyme and meter can be dangerous if used the wrong way. • Remember any sing-song nursery rhymes? • “The Ants Go Marching” • “Humpty Dumpty” • If you choose a rhyme scheme that makes your poem sound sing-song, it will detract from the quality of your poem.
10. Revise, Revise, Revise • Put your poem away for a few days, and then come back to it. • When you re-read it, ask yourself: • Does anything seem confusing? Hard to follow? • Do you see anything that needs improvement that you overlooked the first time? • Often, when you are in the act of writing, you may leave out important details because you are so familiar with the topic. • Re-reading a poem helps you to see it from the "outsider's perspective" of a reader.
10. Revise, Revise, Revise (Con’t) • Show your poem to others and ask for criticism. • Don't be content with a response like, "That's a nice poem." • You won't learn anything from that kind of response. • Instead, find people who will tell you specific things you need to improve in your poem.